Becoming Michelle Obama, by Michelle Obama

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Michelle Obama starts out her book, “Becoming Michelle Obama”, saying: “I’m an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey. In sharing my story, I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why.”

When Michelle started out on the Presidential campaign in Iowa it turned out that how she saw herself became how she started to see the people who had turned out to listen to her. When she stood up to speak to a small group gathered in a home to her hear talk, she said:

Let me tell you about me. I’m Michelle Obama, raised on the South Side of Chicago, in a little apartment on the top floor of a two-story house that felt a lot like this one. My dad was a water-pump operator for the city. My mom stayed at home to raise my brother and me.”

Michelle said she liked her own story and became comfortable telling it. She said that she realized that she was telling the people who had come to listen to her, despite the difference in skin color, that they reminded her of her own family.

In talking about her neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, Mrs. Obama writes, “Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.” Maybe this insight is in part why we see her as a meticulous planner. It reflected in her approach to her studies in high school and at Princeton and in her approach to the various professional jobs she held. Being a planner was her method of pushing through potential failure.

 Michelle wrote about her first impressions when she met Barack telling us that she was fascinated with how different he was but also how they were really opposites in many ways.  She said she was a planner how was obsessed with checking the boxes on her to do list and he was spontaneous. He must have also seen the differences and the story of their first kiss shows him seeking her approval carefully rather than just sweeping her off her feet.” She said about that event, “he was looking at me curiously, with a trace of a smile. “Can I kiss you” he asked. And with that, I leaned in and everything felt clear.”

Mrs. Obama writes about her critics. “I was female, black, and strong, which to certain people, maintaining a certain mind-set, translated only to ‘angry.’ It was another damaging cliché, one that’s been forever used to sweep minority women to the perimeter of every room, an unconscious signal not to listen to what we’ve got to say.”

The book was a surprise in how much I enjoyed it. A different, must read,  book.

Quotes

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” 

“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”

 “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?” 

“failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result.”